The Calvert commissioners plan to meet today in Annapolis with the county's legislative delegation to discuss specific requests for local measures in this year's General Assembly, including a last-minute proposal to impose a new real estate transfer tax.
The meeting, scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m., is open to the public. Commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings) stressed that the board is asking state lawmakers only for the "authority" to, among other things, impose the tax. Before such a tax were implemented, the commissioners would hold hearings and take a vote of their own.
"We're not going to move forward with action without doing that," Hale said Tuesday.
State Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's and Calvert) sent Hale a letter dated Friday asking the commissioners to "reverse your decision to meet privately with the Calvert County delegation in Annapolis and hold a public meeting that we can all attend in the county."
The prior Board of Commissioners had planned such a meeting, but it had to be canceled when not enough members could attend. A meeting with the new board, which has three new members as a result of the November election, was requested by Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's and Calvert).
Miller, who said that another public meeting would be scheduled for controversial issues, explained that the elected officials had to meet soon if Calvert is to get its requests before the legislature, which has been in session for more than two weeks.
"It's a meet-and-greet more so than a formal presentation, in my opinion," Miller said.
The board's legislative requests are largely those drawn up by the prior commissioners. However, a late addition to the list is the request for authority "to impose a transfer tax of up to 1% on the amount of consideration shown on a deed that is recorded."
At Tuesday's board meeting, Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large) opposed adding the tax proposal to the list, also noting in an interview that the new item "was discussed at the executive session orientation" Jan. 14 that she was unable to attend.
Unlike the commissioners' regular weekly meetings, which are open to the public and the media, the three orientation sessions for the new board -- the last of which was completed Tuesday -- were held in closed session. In order not to run afoul of Maryland law, which defines when elected officials can meet in private, the commissioners classified the sessions as an "executive function," which, according to a manual for the state's Open Meetings Compliance Board, can apply to meetings at which elected officials are not developing "a new policy."
William Varga, an assistant state attorney general, said Tuesday that discussion of a new tax "sounds like a policy," and thus should be conducted in public.
Hale said in an interview Tuesday that the board did not discuss the tax. Rather, he said, it came up during a presentation by a county department head. The first discussion by commissioners was on Tuesday in open session, he said.
Other legislative requests include:
* State approval for plans to issue up to $7.26 million in bonds to pay for capital projects. Some of that funding would be used for school construction, including $1.35 million for the new Huntingtown High School, $986,000 for Calvert Middle School and $503,000 for Sunderland Elementary School. Also on the bond financing project list is work costing $1.25 million at the Prince Frederick Library.
* A new state law that would permit real estate tax credits for members of volunteer fire and rescue companies. The proposal is designed to help efforts to recruit and obtain volunteers.
* Authority to consider amending the Length of Service Awards program to allow fire and rescue volunteers who are injured on duty and seeking workers' compensation benefits to keep accumulating points in the program.